Russia’s War Games

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Julián and Sawyer give an update on the Russian conflict against Ukraine while also tackling domestic issues like President Biden’s most-recent polling numbers and the state of the Democratic Party, especially before next week’s Texas primaries. They also chat with housing advocate and All Home founder Tomiquia Moss about her organization’s fight to curb California’s homelessness problem.

Follow Tomiquia’s organization online at @allhomeca and at

Keep up with Julián on Twitter at @JulianCastro and Instagram at @JulianCastroTX. Sawyer can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @SawyerHackett. And stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.

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Tomiquia Moss, Julian Castro, Sawyer Hackett

Julian Castro  00:13

Hey there. I’m Julian Castro.

Sawyer Hackett 

And I’m Sawyer Hackett.

Julian Castro 

And welcome to OUR AMERICA. This week we talk about the latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. We break down the latest polling on Democrats and President Biden heading into the midterms and beyond that 2024 and give a quick preview of the upcoming elections in Texas. And later in the show, we welcome housing advocate and founder of all home to Tomiquia Moss, to talk about our nation’s housing and homelessness crises. But first, let’s follow up on a story we addressed in last week’s episode, the lingering uncertainty of war between Russia and Ukraine. Sawyer, what’s happened since we last spoke about this with Nayyera Haq.

Sawyer Hackett 

Yes, this is definitely an evolving situation. On Monday, President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would recognize the independence of two territories in Ukraine controlled by Moscow backed separatists, which essentially putting Europe further on the path towards what many could fear to be one of the biggest conflicts in Europe since World War Two. Essentially, pro-Russian rebels seized government buildings in these two regions called Donetsk and Luhansk, which I apologize if I’m butchering the pronunciation of these places. But essentially, this sparked this long trench war with Ukrainian forces that’s been going on since 2014, 10s of 1000s of people have died in the region since. But if Russia recognizes these territories, they’re likely use them as what the US terms a false flag operation, which would essentially be viewed as an attack on Russian civilians. And they would cite that as justification for why they can cross the border to escalate tensions with Ukraine. The US has informed the UN that it has credible evidence showing that Moscow is compiling lists of Ukrainians quote to be killed or sent to camps following a military occupation. It looks like Russia has about 190,000 troops surrounding Ukraine right now. It doesn’t appear that there is any sort of prospect for any sort of diplomatic conversation between Biden and Putin anymore. Biden has been trying to push diplomacy but essentially said that if Russia ends up invading Ukraine, that that’s off the table. It looks like we’re heading into these tensions escalating to the point where there may actually be casualties along the border of Ukraine. So but rather than just sort of react to the news, I think we should maybe just take a step back and just talk about what this means for the US. What do you make of the Biden administration’s response to all this? How do you see this sort of playing out and what do you think it means for politics in the US?

Julian Castro  02:44

I give President Biden high marks right now for how they’ve tried to handle this situation. The Vice President was there at the Munich Security Conference meeting with the leader of Ukraine, Zelenskyy, Secretary of State Blinken has been doing a lot of diplomacy. Many people have commented on how solid European support has been for American leadership and staying together on message against Russia’s aggression. That in and of itself is notable because that hasn’t always been the case. And there are nations like Germany, you know, sometimes it’s been harder to get them to support harder line measures against Russia and Russian aggression. You know, this is a clever trick that it seems like Vladimir Putin is trying to play, oh, these two provinces, they want their independence, they’re basically Russian states. So let’s go ahead and take them over, knowing full well, that that could lead to a greater conflict in the last couple of days. You know, it was reported that French president McCrone had potentially helped broker an agreement between Putin and Biden that they would conduct a summit to further the diplomatic efforts. The Biden administration said, Yeah, you know, we’re willing to do that as long as Russia does not invade Ukraine. You know, I do give the administration high marks for its competence on this for its steadfast effort at diplomacy. And hopefully, at the end of the day, Vladimir Putin will recognize that he really he has very little to gain in the long term from this invasion.

Sawyer Hackett  04:28

Yeah. And I think that the Biden administration has pretty much received high marks across the board for how they’ve approached this. I mean, they have been completely resolute in pushing back on Putin’s lies in his narrative, about his justification for going into Ukraine. They’re slowly releasing intelligence showing these false flag operations. You know, they had this car that blew up in Ukraine that they essentially tried to make it seem like Ukrainians were doing. Clearly Putin is trying to fabricate this story about why he’s justified in doing this, and I think the White House and the Biden ministration has been pretty loud about that. And I think it’s interesting to see the Russians essentially complaining that US media is not treating them well, that the Biden ministration is essentially calling them liars. But it doesn’t feel like there’s ever even been a shred of doubt as to why he’s doing this or that there’s any sort of justification in doing this in the first place. The Biden ministration is continuing to emphasize diplomacy, but they’re not going to, you know, completely abandon Ukraine by offering Putin something including a bilateral meeting without assurances that there won’t be an actual war. So it’s really a scary moment, I think, for the world. But it seems like all of the levers of power are essentially pushing Putin not to do this. And it’s his decision whether he wants to escalate it.

Julian Castro 

Yeah, I mean, you know, in some ways, it feels like we’re going back in time, right back into the days of the Cold War, all of this fragmentation and Russian aggression. It’s a fast-moving story, and we’ll keep following it. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. Folks can follow us on Twitter. I’m at @JulianCastro, and what’s your handle Sawyer?

Sawyer Hackett  06:10

At @Sawyer Hackett. And yeah, we’ll be sharing tweets from some notable experts on this. I know that, you know, there’s been some fantastic reporting. I know that there’s a lot of great reporters who are putting themselves at risk right now in the region. reporting on this, I’ve seen all these weird things on TikTok and on Twitter, like videos that everyday citizens are posting, essentially, like geo tagging, where different Russian forces are, it’s really remarkable how calm and normal everything seems right now. But the second that this turns from cold to hot war, it’s really, it could really get back quickly. So we’ll be sharing more expert analysis of all of this, I think in the days ahead.

Julian Castro 

Well, a lot of the attention over the last few days, and really over the last couple of weeks has been about what’s happening overseas with Russia and Ukraine. But here at home, there was some fascinating polling that came out about President Biden and the Democratic coalition in general. I know you read that article that I did as well, you know, it was presented as, hey, what’s happened to the Democratic coalition since Biden won in November 2020. And there were some startling numbers in there, for instance, that Biden support had fallen among African Americans by 19 points, fallen with women by 10 points, fallen with Latinos by 11 points, and fallen with independence by 25 points. And the writer was making the argument that hey, what does this portend for Democrats going into 2022? There’s also a huge argument surrounding that on one camp, you have folks who have suggested that the problem here is that Biden has strayed too far to the left. And that’s why he’s losing independence by 25 points. And also, that’s why he’s losing communities of color, because they’re just not as liberal, as, you know, Democrats in Congress and the Biden ministration. The other camp says, No, actually, if we’re losing our base coalition, because some of the promises that were made in the 2020 campaign, whether they were on voting rights, immigration reform, police reform, or any number of other things, legislation, like Build Back Better, because there haven’t been results on those. There hadn’t been any progress really on those things. And so you’re getting a deflation of enthusiasm among those core groups in the base.

Sawyer Hackett  08:46

Yeah, I mean, there was this debate, I think that largely took place on Twitter, that came from this Axios article earlier in the week, which essentially tries to make the case that progressives have, you know, tainted Democrats, prospects pointing to things like defund the police. And, you know, this issue of renaming schools, immigration, and essentially that they are the problem for the party. And to me, it feels like it’s almost like this pre emptive blaming for what we all sort of expect to happen in the midterms. But the article offered completely, you know, zero evidence about how progressives have pushed these issues at all, or even that they’ve actually made an impact in the polls. You know, the thing I thought was interesting this morning, there was a poll that came out of Virginia, that showed almost the exact opposite. It showed Glenn Youngkin had an approval rating of 41% a month into his first term, and a ban on critical race theory was supported by 35% of voters in the state, opposed by 57%. 63% of voters said that schools quote should teach how racism impacts society. That’s a complete repudiation of that entire narrative.

Julian Castro 

Had like turns it on its head.

Sawyer Hackett 

Right, about how that this issue is so politically toxic for Democrats about how we should steer away from race about how, you know, progressives are the ones hurting him. I mean, if you look at the poll that you just mentioned about, you know, where Biden is coming up short right now, he’s lost the most ground amongst the Democratic coalition, not the independent coalition. It’s been among women, it’s been among African-Americans and Latinos. It’s been among especially young voters are the biggest contingent of support that he’s lost. And I even saw that there was something in there about how he’s lost almost 10 points of ground with like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren voters, I can’t imagine looking at those numbers and saying, oh, Joe Biden has just tacked too far to the left. How do you How is that an out? Where does that analysis come from? If you actually look into the numbers?

Julian Castro  10:37

Well, I mean, not, you know, not that I agree with this argument. But to make the argument for them for a second. I mean, they look at that that number of 25% drop-in support among independents, and they say, look, your biggest problem is that you’re losing these independents. I don’t believe it for two reasons. First, losing 19 points of support among African Americans, who you absolutely need to help power you to victory, whether it’s in states like Georgia, and we have a Senate election coming up there. Or in any number of other places that we hope to win, I think of places like Florida, Latinos dropping by 11%. And mind you, that was a drop among Latinos from 59% to 48%. Support. In 2012, Barack Obama got 71% support among Latinos. So right there, you’re talking about a 23-point difference. The way that I read this really does revolve around a deflation of enthusiasm. And I think that has at least two parts to it. One part is substantive, some missed opportunities, with the Biden administration in terms of trying to address or at least push harder on these issues that I mentioned, whether it’s immigration reform, police reform, voting rights, especially minimum wage, yeah, you know, any number of things. That’s the substance. And then secondly, is the perception and the communications about all this, I just don’t think they’ve put forth the kind of effort at letting people know, what has been accomplished, whether through executive order or in legislation that has been passed, or in getting Biden out there and doing any number of things to ramp up that base. I mean, they just haven’t done as much of that the usual blocking and tackling of politics and getting your message out, that you would expect an administration to do at least to my mind, and all of that plays into this deflation, on top of maybe this is a third part to it, but on top of, hey, look, it’s a midterm year for the incumbent presidents party. Historically, as we’ve said a lot on this show, you’re going to see tougher times in getting people amped up and getting back to the polls. They’re not as hungry as the party that just last we remember how we felt as Democrats in 2018. Against Trump. The good news is there are still several months to go. You know, we haven’t even gotten through the primaries yet in any of these states. And in many ways, this is sort of an academic exercise that people are having on Twitter and among scholars and political analysts right now.

Sawyer Hackett 

Yeah. But you know, and it’s an important debate, I think, because it does kind of think signal to the Democratic Party, like where the fights ahead remain. I mean, you’re right that they have, I don’t think I’ve done an effective job of like touting what they actually have achieved, but where they’ve come up short, they haven’t been able to coherently place that blame at the feet of Republicans, at the feet of the people that we’re going to face in these upcoming midterms. And I think a lot of the enthusiasm drained from the Democratic Party right now is coming from the fact that we see a Republican party that is increasingly authoritarian, increasingly batshit crazy, and increasingly tied to a man who is as corrupt as he is incompetent as he is, you know, tyrannical, and yet we’re the ones losing the messaging war.

Julian Castro  14:10

Oh, I know. I mean, yeah, that you’re right, that’s the most frustrating damn part of the whole thing. And you have a damn crook, idiot, authoritarian. On the other side of this, you know, and on our side, we got a guy who’s a good man and leader and trying to do the right things for everybody in the country. And you are losing the messaging war.

Sawyer Hackett 

It’s almost so obvious when one of these stories comes out. Because you can tell that you can, especially from people who’ve worked in political communications, you can almost like see where the writing is like where it’s coming from, who’s the ones sort of dictating it and pushing that message, but it’s frustrating, I think, progressives because we have a centrist or I would say moderate president in office right now. You have a moderate Democratic leadership in the House and in the Senate. You know, progressives aren’t in any sort of major lever of political power in the country. They’re just some of the loudest most effective communicators. So we hear about them the most. But that I think, is the biggest frustration, is that this administration, the Biden administration, and some of these centrist folks, like, they just don’t know how to communicate in this environment, they don’t know how to communicate their successes, and they don’t know how to communicate the blame for their losses. And in a midterm cycle, attacking your left just does not make sense. I mean, of course, in these tough races, there’s going to be candidates who have to sort of pivot to the middle. But if you need the energy and enthusiasm that’s going to prevent huge midterm atrophy, you need the base of your party mobilized energized, and attacking the left and investing more in police and continuing to enforce Title 42 on immigration, doing these things that constantly piss off your base doesn’t get you anywhere, and definitely won’t earn you the enthusiasm you need to prevent that huge loss in the midterms.

Sawyer Hackett 

On Title 42, for instance, I don’t think Biden’s getting any credit among conservatives, or independents for keeping that in place.

Sawyer Hackett  16:09

It’s his lowest polling issue. Like still to this day, he earns, like 15% approval rating on the issue of immigration.

Julian Castro 

Folks that are moving their vote, according to somebody’s position on that they’re already in the Trump camp, they’re already in the Republican camp, you know, holding on to that is not going to move then at the same time in places like Arizona and Nevada and Georgia. Certainly, in some races, congressional districts here in Texas, he can make a difference in deflating enthusiasm, because people didn’t expect that Biden would keep in place, this Stephen Miller policy. And that’s just one example. I mean, you can go, whether we’re talking about police reform or voting rights or other things. They haven’t hit their marks. And when they missed the mark, they haven’t given a satisfactory answer for why that is, or as you said, been able to pin it successfully. On the other side, and I mean, make no mistake, whether we’re talking about voting rights, immigration, police reform, Republicans are completely part of the problem. I mean, they’re obstructionist. They don’t believe in these things. But you got to be able to point that out effectively. And so far, it seems like the administration hasn’t.

Sawyer Hackett 

Even things like picking the lowest hanging fruit of Democratic support, like canceling student loan debt, or you know, frankly, Biden’s position on marijuana. It’s absurd that you have an issue that 75% of voters, including an overwhelmingly, an overwhelming amount of Republican voters and independent voters support legalizing marijuana, and yet they’re still pushing back on this issue. I mean, these are just the things that I think he could just pick up a lot of ground on. And, you know, maybe he will maybe there maybe they’re planning some sort of announcement on those two issues, as we head into the midterms to juice up the base a little bit. But these are the lowest hanging fruit that that still have not been picked by this administration. And I hope that changes. But before we go to break, I wanted to quickly get your assessment on how all of this relates to what’s going to happen in Texas next Tuesday. Because you do have that that first primary election, you have a couple of really big congressional races. And of course, the top of the ticket, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General are all up. So what do you think’s gonna happen next Tuesday?

Julian Castro  18:18

Well, I mean, on the Republican side, it looks at least like it’s not going to be very eventful that Abbott and Patrick will probably be reelected. I said, for a long time, I thought Abbott was vulnerable. You know, in many ways, I still think he is but Allen West and Don Hofheinz have not been able to get the traction, I thought they were going to be able to get especially Allen West. The one race that looks like it’s getting more and more interesting is the race for attorney general. On the Republican side, the Attorney General right now, Paxton has been indicted, you know, is fighting for his political life. He’s being challenged by four or five candidates across the spectrum, including folks like Louie Gohmert, who are every bit as out there. And, you know, right wing as he is, but also significantly by George P. Bush. Now, George P. Bush is fighting for his own political life. There was a headline that Texas Monthly and a daily article they put out the other day, then the headline was, well, the Bush dynasty and with George P. Bush, a poll came out a couple of days ago that had the race at something like 39% for Paxton, the incumbent, I think bush in that poll actually had 23% and then the next person had 15. At any rate, if they get into a runoff, Paxton may be in trouble, because you know, he has been a tried-and-true blue Trumper. And if the rest of Republicans knowing that are not on board with him at this point, then it’s hard for me to believe that those folks supporting Eva Guzman are going to support Paxton over George P. Bush. And I also think that some of those Louie Gohmert supporters that are out there as well that love how conservative, right wing, not even conservative, right-wing crazy his politics are. I think they’re going to be up for grabs because if they’re not with Paxson already, they probably have some heartburn about supporting him now that he’s indicted and is sort of besmirched his reputation. That’s one to watch. On the Democratic side. I think Beto O’Rourke will get the primary win pretty easily. And Jessica Cisneros down there in the 28th congressional district poll came out yesterday had her at 36, Cuellar the incumbent who is under FBI investigation at 35. The rest of it basically, you know, went I think five or six points went to some third candidate, and then the rest of it was undecided. There are a lot of undecided there in that poll, but I think that she will be able to pull it off. I mean, she’s gotten stronger and stronger. She had AOC down here to campaign for her. She’s gonna be with Elizabeth Warren this week. She’s getting a lot of momentum at the end. And she also has resources to get her message out there. So that that attorney general’s race on the Republican side, the Jessica Cisneros and Henry Cuellar race on the Democratic side are two of the races. I’ll be watching. For sure. On the march 1 primary ballot.

Sawyer Hackett  21:33

There’s been a lot of coverage, I think of what Republicans have been doing in Texas lately. I mean, especially like in the RGV, the inroads that they’ve made with Latinos. But I think a fascinating headline that should come out of this upcoming election if things go the way I want them to go is, you know it both Greg Casar who’s running in the 35th. District, and then Jessica Cisneros, who’s running the 28th district, both win, those are two very talented up and coming rising stars in the party who are progressive and Latino. And that should be a big win for the Democratic Party in Texas, that we have this these two new figures who could enter Congress in November, or, you know, win their races in November who are progressive Latino, Texans, and, you know, could be, you know, future stars of the party. I think that that’s great. I think it’s funny while you were talking about that Attorney General rights, just like I was reflecting on like, imagine telling yourself 10 years ago, that a five time indicted, sitting attorney general would still hold a double digit lead over a Bush, who is they thought the future of the Republican Party, by the way, like this big Republican superstar, who is also Latino, that he, you know, would be clawing on forever a last point he can get just to just to have a showing against a five time indicted Attorney General, it’s fascinating piece of history to think that.

Sawyer Hackett 

But if folks should get out there and vote if they’re in Texas, early voting ends Friday, February 25th. And Election Day is March 1. So to my fellow Texans, if you’re listening, and you haven’t voted yet, get out there and vote.

Sawyer Hackett 

And so after the break, we’re going to talk with Tomiquia Moss, who is the founder and chief executive of All Home, which is a housing nonprofit in the Bay Area, which we’re going to talk about the housing and homelessness crises out there. In issue, I know that it’s near and dear to your heart. But this organization that’s doing a lot of great work on the issue. So after the break, we’re going to talk to Tomiquia.

Julian Castro  24:02

This portion of the episode is in partnership with the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which is committed to building a more inclusive just and healthy future for everyone. Tomiquia Moss is the founder and chief executive of All Home in the Bay Area, which aims to advance solutions that disrupt the cycles of poverty and homelessness, and create more opportunities for extremely low-income people. Tomiquia has more than 20 years of leadership in the housing and community development space. Previously serving in various local administration and as the CEO of Hamilton families, and we’re very happy to have her on the show. Thanks for joining us Tomiquia.

Tomiquia Moss 

Thanks so much for having me. I’m really glad to be here.

Julian Castro 

You have a wealth of experience in this area, having worked in a number of different organizations and tackling the issue of homelessness. Can you tell me just to start off, how did you come to this work?

Tomiquia Moss 

My origin story really starts with my upbringing. When I was a child, I was raised by my maternal grandparents. And I remember feeling very much like, I had a sense of responsibility to my community, because my family, my grandmother, my community, showed that to me when my parents died. And so I feel like it was a colonel set very early on in my life, about my success, my being able to thrive in my own community had to do with how well the rest of my community was doing. And so I think, from that, I ended up kind of being on this very circuitous path of, you know, studying political science and undergrad, working as a case manager and a social worker. And then really understanding that working directly with people was a passion, you know, that I’ve had for a really long time, but seeing how those folks had to maneuver through these broken systems, no matter if it was the housing system, education, criminal justice, you name it. That’s when I started to really think about how do I connect my experience and working directly in community as an organizer as a social worker, and bridging that gap to policy changes and advocacy so that there’s clear communication about what people are experiencing in community, and how our policy makers and decision makers are informed by what needs to happen in order to address some of our biggest social challenges like homelessness and housing insecurity.

Sawyer Hackett  26:40

So Tomiquia, can you tell us just a little bit about what All Home was founded to do you know, what the needs were that you saw in the community and what the focus is that you are prioritizing right now, on the issue of housing and homelessness in the area?

Tomiquia Moss 

I was running a nonprofit called Hamilton families in San Francisco, that was addressing the needs of families and children experiencing homelessness. And so we provided emergency shelter, Rapid Rehousing support and other social services for families who are experiencing this crisis. And as I was doing that work, I started to recognize how difficult it was for families to find deeply affordable housing in the communities that they come from. San Francisco is situated in the Bay Area, as folks may know, and we were needing to house folks as far as Sacramento. So it occurred to me that we not only needed to think about this issue differently, but that the issue was regional, in our region, there are nine counties in the Bay Area. And each of the counties address homelessness and housing differently. Our cities address it differently. And there’s very little coordination, and alignment and collaboration around how do we scale what works? How do we use data to inform what we do? How do we make sure that we are supporting folks at each step of their housing crisis. And so it was from that experience that I realized that there was a gap in our ecosystem, that we needed to think about this work across jurisdictions, across communities, and think about resource sharing, how do we lift up the best practices that are working in neighborhoods and communities and organizations. And how do we scale those investments. So that was the genesis of all home.

Julian Castro  28:23

Part of the mission of the organization is to address the needs of people who are extremely low income. And extremely low income means people that are making less than 30% of the area median income, and this case in the Bay Area. But their challenges, of course, they’re in the Bay Area, and really in every metro region, in cities big and small. And we saw an affordability crisis way before this pandemic, the pandemic has just made it worse. And we want to ask you about, you know, the situation there in California and then the Bay Area, but just like from a 30,000-foot view from everything you’ve seen in this last quarter century. What do you see as the biggest challenges when it comes to extremely low-income individuals? And what are the biggest barriers to progress? I think you put your finger on one of them, which is regionalism, right? Different communities working together and actually taking responsibility. That’s often hard when it comes to suburbs, for instance.

Tomiquia Moss 

That’s right. And you know, I think what’s so interesting, I think, in this pandemic, is that, as you said, so many of the challenges that many of us have been fighting, you, as one of our leaders have been fighting for way before the pandemic happened. We’re surface during this time, right? And so, when we talk about extremely low-income people, we’re talking about school aids, we’re talking about people who care for our seniors, we’re talking about low wage service workers. We’re talking about the essential fabric of what makes our communities work across this entire country. And not just our heroes, and […] from our health space. But these are folks who are literally who didn’t have paid time off during this pandemic, we weren’t able to, you know, work from their homes. These were the folks who were out in our communities where COVID illnesses and deaths, income and job losses hit those extremely low-income households, and particularly those households of color much harder than it did our higher income households. And so what we’ve seen is that when we started All Home three years ago, we were working with about 850,000 people across the nine county Bay Area who were earning less than $35,000 a year, which is extremely low income for our region that varies across communities in the country. But that number is projected to have increased to over a million households through the pandemic. So what we know in terms of the causes is that we don’t have enough deeply affordable housing, in the Bay Area, and frankly, in other high-cost jurisdictions across this country to meet the demand. So when you have an economy, like California is the fifth largest in the world, and you have all of these high earning jobs, but no deeply affordable housing for the workforce that keeps this region going, you’re going to have a manifestation of homelessness in this region where people are literally on our streets. You have other communities like Chicago and New York where unsheltered homelessness is not as significant. But poverty rates are high, Alabama communities where there are poor people, but those folks are not unsheltered, and they’re not on house. So how do we think about the relationship to housing as the solution to homelessness, and what that looks like in jurisdictions like the bay area where we’ve had 30 years of under producing affordable housing in our community, and therefore, the challenges that we see in this moment are just worse.

Sawyer Hackett  32:14

So Tomiquia, before the pandemic, we had a shortage of at least 7 million affordable units for extremely low-income Americans, obviously, that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic, I saw on your website that in the counties that that you all serve that there’s a deficit of at least 185,000 affordable units for extremely low-income Americans. What do you see is the biggest barrier in terms of the incentive structure for developers to build affordable housing and how is all home sort of stepping into that gap to incentivize more affordable housing being built?

Tomiquia Moss 

First of all, I think that California, has a challenge of producing affordable housing quickly and cheaply, the data we have of late, it cost about $700,000, a door for an affordable housing unit to be produced in the state of California. And there’s just no way that you can do that level of the cost, and scale the number of affordable housing units that you need. So first of all, we need to think about how do we reduce construction costs? How do we make it easier in terms of our zoning, in terms of our willingness to accept housing, especially housing for people who are formerly homeless, in our communities everywhere, right? So there’s no place that our neighbors are not able to live because we accept housing in those communities? And also, how do we make sure that we have interim temporary housing for people who are currently outdoors who need to be brought in safely and securely so that we can start working on the other challenges in their lives. We can’t live in a region in a state where 160,000 people are unsheltered every night in the state of California 35,000 people in our region and not think we have a housing problem. So we have to be able to think about what are the levers that we can impact to make housing cheaper and faster to build. I think the other challenge for the developers that we hear all the time is the fact that there are not services and operating dollars that are long term enough. And these are when folks have challenges who have experienced and experienced homelessness for a long time. They have social service needs, and we need to be able to provide those full social service needs as a part of their housing. And when there isn’t a revenue source that’s ongoing and permanent for those services. And when rents are so low, the developer needs to offset the cost between what it takes to operate the building and the rent that people able to pay, those two things need to be part of the capital investments that we see being made into permanent housing. So if we can figure out a strategy where you don’t have to piecemeal your funding together to develop permanent housing at scale, that’s how you unlock the puzzle.

Julian Castro 

When you think about these last couple of decades, what’s the best example of progress that you have seen, either there in your backyard in the bay area or in another community that you’ve taken note of, and you’d like to see those that kind of progress happen in the Bay Area?

Tomiquia Moss 

You know, I want to say that we saw eviction moratoriums, and emergency rental assistance, being incredible tools across this nation, to help people stay in their homes and fend off a wave of homelessness during the pandemic. We know that those things worked. We’re seeing them work every single day in certainly here in the Bay Area, but all across the country. And what we also saw was other elements that create stability in families lives, like the Child Tax Credit, guaranteed income pilots all over the country, right. These are incredible tools and resources that we know work, that have data and evaluation to back them up. And if we can prevent homelessness from happening in the first place, then that’s how we begin to get a hold of this crisis. One of the startling realities that I faced when I was running Hamilton was for every family that I housed, three more families will become homeless during the same period of time. There’s no way that we can deal. We know how to house people, we do it every single day, 10s of 1000s of folks are getting house every month. And yet, the inflow into homelessness is so severe, because of those structural failures, we must do something to tackle that upstream work.

Tomiquia Moss  36:54

I think the other thing that we’ve seen really work here in California was the state’s program around project Room key and Home key. And Room key was the program that the state launched to bring folks most at risk for COVID, who were unhoused, and medically vulnerable into vacant motels and hotels, while that industry was not able to operate. And it was tremendous to see both how quickly we were able to bring folks indoors, the political will it took to get that program off the ground, and the resources that were deployed to local communities to make that happen. That program then graduated into what we now call is Home key, which I think is a national model at this point where many of those hotels and motels have now been purchased and converted into permanent housing. So it’s solutions like this that I think give us hope that there are ways in which we can tackle this problem, if we put our minds to it and imagine a reality where we don’t have homelessness that is persistent, but that it’s rare, brief and non-recurring. And we need ongoing resources in order to do that. And I think that’s what we’re hoping to see from the federal action that’s being taken during the pandemic because we know these challenges existed before the pandemic, and they will persist after and we need that level of support and investment to see the outcomes that we want.

Sawyer Hackett  38:30

So Tomiquia, you brought up the emergency rental assistance funds that the federal government allocated. This morning, I checked the census pulse survey, as I do pretty much every month just to see how many Americans are still behind on rent, it showed that there’s still more than 10 million renters behind on payments right now. And you know, that’s after $46 billion worth of federal assistance that’s gone out to keep people from, you know, becoming homeless or being evicted from their homes. What do you see as both the short-term federal solutions to make sure that we don’t see another wave of evictions and homelessness, but also long term to build more affordable housing so that most, so that people aren’t caught, you know, in arrears on their rental payments down the road?

Tomiquia Moss 

What we’ve tried to do in California is really look at what happens when the eviction moratoriums expire, right? And how do we actually make sure that the rental assistance programs that were deployed across states in this country that those resources continue to flow, most funds have been expended but they haven’t actually gotten into the hands of the landlords and the tenants who need them. So we’ve been really pushing our state to make sure that those dollars are expended and that the state in California we have a really significant surplus of resources. We want to make sure that some of those surpluses are used to backfill any gaps between the federal assistance and what continues to be the need in terms of those who need rental assistance. I think for jurists, dictions that are not able to sustain the eviction moratoriums, ours will expire at the end of March. How do we make sure that we are providing that tenant protection and support on the ground? Having the legal services that folks need? If they are facing eviction? How do we help tenants negotiate with their landlords, if they receive a three day or a 10-day notice, that that doesn’t mean that they have to leave their apartments, it means that they can begin to negotiate a settlement for themselves. So I think a lot of it has to do with education relying on the community organizations that are providing the legal assistance, and tenant protections services in communities across the country to really support folks in not feeling like they had to leave their homes because their incomes haven’t recovered from the pandemic. I think the second part of your question, the sort of longer-term strategy is, you know, we were really hopeful that build back better would really provide additional housing assistance to our folks across this country. And, you know, Secretary fudge came to Oakland, and talk to our community about HUDs commitment to increasing vouchers and making sure that HUD and the various departments are working in step with communities across this country, we need the federal government to really continue its commitment to addressing this crisis. And frankly, what does it look like for the rest of the federal government to own this issue, because as I’ve said, I really believe that it’s structural, it’s not just HUDs job to provide federal funding to address homelessness and housing security. It’s our health department. It’s the Education Department. It’s the entire ecosystem that it takes to make healthy communities. And so I think we have an opportunity to engage with this administration, not just about, you know, the housing piece, but about the other components that make someone well, that we want to see.

Julian Castro  42:08

Well, you know, it’s an election year, there are races happening at the federal level, the state level, all over the country. And of course, at the local level, I think you would agree with me that oftentimes, housing for people in office for a lot of elected officials, doesn’t get the priority, issue wise, or investment that it deserves. For all of those candidates for all of those currently elected officials, as someone who has worked with people who are in need, and understands this challenge. What’s your message for those policymakers?

Tomiquia Moss 

Well, first of all, I just want to acknowledge your leadership, because you were one of the folks that brought housing to the conversation, not only when you were secretary, but in your run. So that’s how it starts. Housing is so foundational to the well-being of our society, that I think people forget, it’s not accessible to everyone. Because we treat housing as a commodity, we have literally commoditized housing, land ownership was only secured to white property owners, a lot of that history. And certainly racist history hasn’t changed that much. That’s why you see such a disproportionate amount of our Black and Brown people who are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. You can overlay redlining maps in the Bay Area to income inequality maps from 50 years ago, and they look almost identical. So I think the first thing is recognizing that housing has to be a part of any politicians agenda, because it is one of the most foundational elements of being able to live your life in this country. And the fact that we have so many of our brothers and sisters across this nation who do not have a place to call home should be an imperative to anyone who is in public service. That’s why I got into public service to make sure that everyone had access and opportunity beyond the bare minimum, but to their full potential. And so many of the folks that we serve don’t have the bare minimum. And so it’s not to me a political issue. It is a humanitarian issue. It is a responsibility of our society. It’s really trying to recognize that this is not about a partisan issue. This is a fundamental sense of responsibility that we have as Americans to ensure that everyone has a home.

Julian Castro  44:47

Oh, we’re glad that you’re in the fight, and especially now, with so much need out there and giving voice to those who often don’t have a voice in the process. Thank so you much Tomiquia for joining us on OUR AMERICA.

Tomiquia Moss 

Thank you so much for having me. I’ve really enjoyed the discussion with both of you.

Julian Castro 

Absolutely. And thanks again to our sponsor for this episode, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, which remains focused on housing affordability.

Julian Castro 

Hey, Sawyer, did you see the latest on Donald Trump’s plans for 2024? He’s talking about or hinting at maybe selecting a VP running may like Senator Tim Scott or Senator Marco Rubio. Did you catch that?

Sawyer Hackett  46:01

I did see that. Well, I saw that Tim Scott was making his rounds on the Sunday shows, or at least he was on Fox News. And they asked him about, you know, would he be a potential VP to Trump and that he, you know, he smiled and laughter and didn’t say no. And, and then I saw Maggie Haberman tweeted that Trump himself has been floating the two of them as potential VPS. For him, obviously, he’s willing to dump Pence at this point. But I thought that that was hilarious, because I just think it’s so telling that these two people who, who I think have once considered themselves like Mavericks in their party, that they are principled people, that they’re still willing to put their own ambition above, you know, above their country, above anything else by being considered vice president to a man who literally tried to overthrow the government in a coup?

Julian Castro 

Yeah, I mean, yeah, it’s like, throw your principles out the window. Obviously, there are two different cases, Tim Scott and Marco Rubio, but a few years ago, nobody would have described either one of them as Trump acolytes. They have done somersaults. They’ve contorted their politics. You know, both Tim Scott and Marco Rubio to even be in the conversation as a potential running mate for Donald Trump. I don’t know what to say. Except, you know, it’s laughable. But we learned last time that you can’t just laugh it all away when it comes to Trump.

Sawyer Hackett 

Well, I think it’s interesting too, because, like, up until this point, Tim Scott, he’s denied that there has been sort of any widespread fraud or that the 2020 election was rigged. He’s vehemently denied that I don’t know about Marco Rubio can’t speak for a little Marco. But you know that that’s going to be a litmus test that Trump has for his potential VP. So it’s either Tim Scott is willing to abandon all of his principles, all of his standing on that issue. He’s willing to sacrifice his, you know, love of democracy and the Republic, or he’s not being picked as VP. And so I just think it’s funny that people like talk about this as though these guys are potential, whatever, until you see them start to say something about that, you know, backtracking on that important issue, I think, for Trump, they’re not going to be his VP.

Julian Castro  48:13

I mean, if he took one of those, if I had to guess I think he’d actually go for Rubio to open up a Senate seat for his daughter. I mean, that’s what folks are talking about, like for the last two years, right? That Ivanka Trump who’s now a resident of Florida, would challenge Marco Rubio, well, what better way to get him out of the way and get her in there than to take him as VP?

Sawyer Hackett 

Well, plus, I think either one I think he thinks or and there’s a section of there’s just certain type of Republican who thinks that they’ll be able to make even further inroads with, you know, Black or Latino voters, by picking one of them, you know, and that would be smart. I mean, that would be a smart thing for him to do. I don’t think Pence brought him any sort of credibility with conservative voters or like evangelical voters. He’s had their support all along. He never needed pence for any of that, you know, with Tim Scott, or with Marco Rubio, they may actually benefit him politically so I could see him. I could see him doing it.

Sawyer Hackett 

We have no doubt that there’s gonna be a lot more craziness from Donald Trump in the next couple of years. Leave us a voicemail sharing the stories that you care about most right now at 833-453-6662. That’s 833-453-6662. And don’t forget to subscribe to Lemonada Premium on Apple podcasts.

Sawyer Hackett

We’ll see y’all next week.


OUR AMERICA is a Lemonada Media Original. Our Producer is Xorje Olivares, with executive producers Jessica Cordova Kramer, Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Julian Castro. Mix and scoring by Veronica Rodriguez. Music is by Xander Singh. Please help others find the show by rating and reviewing wherever you listen and follow us across all social platforms at @JulianCastro, at @Sawyer Hackett and at @LemonadaMedia. If you want more OUR AMERICA, subscribe to Lemonada Premium, only on Apple podcasts.

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